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The Top 10 Beauty Foods

Why do things go more smoothly when you know you look good? Is the world simply nicer to people who are nice to look at? Or is there something inside you that is making the world take notice? When your hair has bounce and shine, your eyes are sparkling, and you greet everyone with a delighted smile, of course your day goes better. While some new Maybelline Great Lash mascara and Bobbi Brown blush may help your cause, there is more than surface beauty at work here. You are at your most radiantly beautiful when you feel good. Looking good can help you feel good. But feeling good always makes you look good!

During the day your body is busy converting food to energy. Your brain is burning through glucose, your muscles are working, your body is digesting, and free-radical damage is accumulating in your cells. At night, thankfully, your body goes into repair mode. Your digestion slows down. The levels of your stress hormones drop, and blood flow is diverted from your now-sleeping brain to the rest of your body. Your bloodstream rushes nutrients to your cells for growth and repair. Healthy fats are used to rebuild flexible cell membranes. Protein is used to grow hair, repair muscle, and rejuvenate the collagen in your skin. Calcium is used to rebuild bones. Antioxidants quench the free radicals that ravaged your cells during the day and work their antiaging magic. Mighty minerals and vital vitamins are busy refreshing, replenishing, and revitalizing.

My Top 10 Beauty Foods are packed with the powerful nutrients and micronutrients your body needs to keep your cells refreshed and in good repair. This post is all about giving your body the materials it needs helps keep you healthy, radiant, vibrant, and young. To have delicate, soft skin, thick, shiny hair; long, smooth fingernails; clear, bright eyes; and a brilliant, gleaming smile, you need to nourish your body from within. The more nutrient-rich foods you eat, the greater you feel and the better you look!

Foods to Fill Your Beauty Bank: Following are foods that will feed your features and enhance your appearance from the inside out. Read on as I unlock the secrets of the 10 most powerful foods for nourishing your natural beauty:

1. Wild Salmon: Salmon (especially the wild kind) is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. What’s even more exciting is that consuming the pink fish can enhance your beauty. I picked salmon for my Top 10 list because it is one of the best food sources of omega-3 fatty acids, those beneficial fats that enhance our health and appearance by fighting inflammation, keeping our cells supple, improving circulation, and helping our brains function optimally. Salmon is a beauty food because its nutrients play a key role in keeping the skin’s outer layer soft and smooth. The omega-3s in salmon reduce inflammation on the cellular level that can cause redness, wrinkles, and loss of firmness.

Salmon is a great food choice because it tastes delicious and has all these health and beauty benefits. Salmon is generally available and affordable, and it can be prepared in myriad different ways. You may prefer salmon fillet or salmon steak, fresh salmon or canned. You may opt for your salmon raw in sushi, smoked on a bagel, broiled as a burger, baked in the oven, or thrown on the grill. There’s a recipe for this beauty food to suit any occasion. If you need an idea, see my Beauty Diet recipes for Spiced Salmon with Edamame Succotash in The Beauty Diet Meal Plan.

Why Wild Salmon Is a Better Choice than Farmed Salmon: Both wild salmon and farm-raised salmon have a variety of health benefits, but my favorite choice for this versatile fish is the wild variety. The main difference between farmed salmon and wild salmon is the environment they grow up in. Wild salmon are from ocean waters and live exactly how fish are supposed to live. Farmed salmon are raised with a large number of fish in pens. They are fed pellets of groundup fish meal and oils to make them grow quickly, and they tend to have more fat than wild salmon. Farmed salmon are given antibiotics to fight disease and dye to make their flesh pink. Research has revealed that farmed salmon havehigher concentrations of organochlorine compounds such as PCBs, dioxins, and chlorinated pesticides—up to 10 times more contaminants than their wild counterparts. Farmed salmon from Europe has been found to have more contaminants than farmed salmon from Chile or North American farms.

Wild salmon feed themselves naturally and are not dyed pink. Wild salmon costs more in the marketplace but contains fewer amounts of manmade pollutants such as PCBs and pesticides. If you can’t find fresh wild salmon, try the canned variety. It’s less expensive than fresh, and usually it is Alaska wild salmon, even if the label doesn’t say so. Pregnant women and nursing mothers may especially wish to reduce their contaminant exposure by selecting wild salmon over farmed.

2. Low-Fat Yogurt: I’ve included low-fat yogurt in my Top 10 Beauty Foods because it is a terrific source of calcium, which is especially helpful if you want strong bones, beautiful nails, good posture, and a beautiful smile. One cup of plain, low-fat yogurt supplies about 450 milligrams of calcium. That’s more than the amount of calcium in a cup of fat-free milk, and it supplies close to half of your daily calcium needs. The beauty benefits of yogurt are not limited to its calcium content, though. Eight ounces of yogurt has two grams of zinc, which is beneficial for your skin. Wondering what’s in Pinkberry, the “reinvented” frozen yogurt? Believe it or not, live and active cultures. Frozen yogurt is a “nonstandardized food,” meaning it is not subject to federal composition standards. Not all brands of frozen yogurt actually contain live cultures.

The good news is that the live cultures in genuine frozen yogurt are not killed by the freezing process but go into a dormant state. When they warm up inside the body, they get back to work! At about 150 calories per cup, plain low-fat yogurt is a slimming treat. Try to stay away from commercial brands of yogurt that have lots of fruit and sugar added. An eight-ounce fruit-flavored yogurt may contain 28 grams of sugar (equal to seven teaspoons)! Excess sugar contributes calories and can harm the natural suppleness of your skin.

I could go on about the health and beauty benefits of yogurt for several more pages, but I’ll just add that yogurt can reduce your chances of having a yeast infection and may ease the symptoms of PMS. With so many health benefits, you’ll want to eat yogurt “as is” or add it to recipes to give every meal a beauty boost. One of my favorite snacks is the Strawberry Raspberry Yogurt Parfait in the beauty diet meal plan.

3. Oysters: The expression “the world is your oyster” suggests that oysters have a world of benefits tucked inside their shell. These little gifts from the sea are on my Top 10 list because they are the best whole-food source of zinc. People often think of oysters as an aphrodisiac, but the high zinc content of oysters is a great beauty benefit as this mineral is a major player in skin renewal and repair. It helps create collagen, which provides the structural support in skin. It also has antioxidant properties and has been shown to be a protective nutrient at the cellular level. Zinc helps maintain stronger nails, keeps the scalp and hair healthy, and helps protect eyes from vision problems. Zinc is highly concentrated in the retina, where it serves as a critical antioxidant and helps protects against eye-related diseases. Most Americans do not meet their daily zinc requirements.

It’s easy to add this beauty mineral to your diet with flair and flavor by enjoying oysters. They can be cooked in a wide variety of ways, such as Oysters Primavera, Broiled Oysters Florentine with Mixed Greens, and Poached Oysters in Garlic, Herbs, and Broth with Mixed Greens and Whole Wheat Baguette. Of course, many people enjoy oysters best served raw on the half shell. In that case, check out Oysters on the Half Shell with Fresh Tomato Mignonette, Mixed Green Salad, and Whole Wheat Baguette. If you are pregnant, I do not recommend eating raw oysters or any other undercooked food.

4. Blueberries: With their bright flavor and unmistakable blue hue, blueberries seem to be trying to catch our attention. Today the humble blueberry is experiencing a new level of popularity, not because it has a significant amount of any one vitamin or mineral but because of its unusual antioxidant profile. Researchers at a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) laboratory at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, rank blueberries number one in antioxidant activity when compared to 40 common fresh fruits and vegetables. Blueberries contain many plant compounds that combine to make this sweet fruit an antioxidant superstar. I included blueberries in my Top 10 Beauty Foods because their antioxidant, antiaging, and anti-inflammatory effects protect you from premature aging. According to the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, compounds in blueberries known as oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) help support collagen and elastin.

Research has also revealed that blueberries may help protect the brain from oxidative stress. Blueberries also promote urinary tract health. They contain the same compounds found in cranberries that help prevent bladder infections.

So blueberries keep you looking young, provide you with dietary fiber, and help protect you from cancer, eye problems, and age-related diseases. At 80 calories a cup, this slimming fruit has so many health benefits you’ll want to be sure to add it to your diet. If you never really thought of yourself as a blueberry lover, try my tempting recipes for Whole Grain Blueberry Pancakes, Blueberry Ginger Smoothie, and Peach Blueberry Ginger Crisp.

5. Kiwifruit: Kiwifruit offers a rich nutritional reward in a small, delicious package. Inside of this small, brown, fuzzy fruit—about the size and shape of a very large egg—you’ll find semitranslucent green flesh and small black seeds around a white center. Kiwifruit has a unique sweet flavor something like a combination of strawberries, pineapples, and bananas. I’ve included kiwifruit among the Top 10 Beauty Foods because it offers more than just a tropical touch for your fruit salad: it has an unusually abundant amount of vitamin C and other antiaging antioxidants. Kiwifruit offers beauty benefits from stimulating collagen synthesis (vital to lovely skin) to maintaining healthy bones and teeth to protecting against wrinkles and premature aging. Because kiwis are antioxidant all-stars, they can help neutralize free radicals, which otherwise can cause damage to cells that could lead to inflammation, cancer, and heart disease. Kiwi is a slimming fruit. Two medium kiwis have only 92 calories. Kiwi may also boost circulation: in a study published in Platelets, people who ate two or three kiwis a day for 28 days reduced their platelet aggregation response—potential clot formation—by 18 percent, compared to those eating no kiwis. If the array of health- and beauty-promoting sub-stances in kiwifruit is not enough to tempt you to try them, turn to Chapter 9 for my recipes for deliciously cool and sweet Kiwi and Melon Fruit Soup and Tropical Kiwi Fruit Salad with Vanilla Lime Syrup.

6. Sweet Potatoes: The orange color of sweet potatoes gives their secret away. Sweet potatoes are on my list of Top 10 Beauty Foods because of their big boost of beauty-enhancing beta-carotene, a fatsoluble pigment found in many orange vegetables and fruits. It is a powerful antioxidant that protects our cells by destroying the free radicals that can damage cells (including skin cells) and cause age-related disorders. The body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, which helps keep your skin smooth, so incorporating sweet potatoes into your diet can help you achieve wrinkle-free skin. Beta-caroten also may protect skin from the damage caused by sun exposure. One cup of cubed sweet potato contains a stunning 14,260 micrograms of beta-carotene.

To help simplify the process of choosing nutritious foods, scientists at the Center for Science in the Public Interest have developed a point system. Foods are given points for dietary fiber, naturally occurring sugars and complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium.

Points are deducted for fat content (especially saturated fat), sodium, cholesterol, added refined sugars, and caffeine. The higher the score, the more nutritious the food. According to this point system, the sweet potato is the number-one most nutritious vegetable! For a modest 115-calorie investment, you get a huge nutritional return. If you have limited your sweet potato consumption to once a year on Thanksgiving, use my Beauty Diet to add its orange goodness to your meals every week! Sweet potatoes can be dressed up or down, roasted or mashed, even cooked fast in the microwave oven if you’re in a hurry. As a fabulous alternative to fatty French fries, try my tempting Grilled Sweet Potato “Fries”.

Sweet Potato or Yam? Although their beauty nutrients are similar, true yams and sweet potatoes are not even botanically related. Yams are large and starchy and are grown in tropical and subtropical coun-tries (nearly 100 percent comes from West Africa). Real yams can be found in the United States in international markets.

Sweet potatoes have pointy ends and are widely available throughout the United States. They are so commonly mistaken for yams that you may notice the sign in the grocery store says “yams” and then, underneath, “sweet potatoes.”

However, sweet potatoes are sweeter than true yams and have more protein. The light variety has a thin skin and is roughly the same color on the outside as a baking potato. The dark or garnet variety has a thicker skin and is reddish brown in color on the outside and orange on the inside. If you had “candied yams” for Thanksgiving, chances are you were eating delicious sweet potatoes.

7. Spinach: Spinach is a versatile, affordable, readily available, low-calorie leafy green vegetable that is loaded with beauty-enhancing nutrients. I included it in my Top 10 Beauty Foods because of its exceptional lutein content, which keeps our eyes healthy and bright. Spinach also contains a significant amount of beta-carotene, as well as vitamin C, several B vitamins, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, dietary fiber, and even omega-3 fatty acids, making it a wonderfully nutrientdense vegetable. There are so many phytonutrients in spinach that researchers have been working on producing spinach extracts—but I’d prefer it if you ate the real thing. If you like raw spinach, try my Beauty Diet recipe Greek Spinach Salad with Yogurt Dill Dressing. For something warm, try the Spring Pea and Spinach Soup with Crab.

8. Tomatoes: I added tomatoes to my list of Top 10 Beauty Foods because they provide the greatest amount of the antiaging antioxidant lycopene, the bright red carotenoid pigment that gives tomatoes, watermelons, and pink grapefruit their distinctive color. Believe it or not, tomatoes are one food I encourage you to enjoy processed. The lycopene in tomatoes is actually more easily absorbed by the body after it is processed into juice, sauce, ketchup, or canned tomato puree. Ounce for ounce, the greatest source is canned tomato paste. It’s a great staple to keep in your pantry to add to soups or stews for an antioxidant boost. It seems like nature decided to put a powerful combination of antiaging antioxidants into the beautiful and tasty package we call the tomato. You’ll think of a hundred ways to add tomatoes to your diet, from putting a thick, vine-ripened slice on your veggie burger to adding canned tomatoes to your favorite chili recipe. I highly recommend the Fire-Roasted Tomato Soup in the beauty diet meal plan.

9. Walnuts: Smooth skin tone, healthy hair, vibrant eyes, and strong bones can all be attributed to the dominant nutrients found in walnuts. I’ve included walnuts among my Top 10 Beauty Foods because they are the only type of nut that contains a significant amount of beauty-enhancing omega-3 fatty acids, plus they also provide vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant that helps protect cells from free-radical damage and is associated with beautiful skin. A comprehensive study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition ranked the antioxidant content of different foods, and walnuts are among the top items. When nuts and seeds are ranked according to their antioxidant content, walnuts come in first (followed by pecans).

Many people are cautious about eating nuts, but research supports eating a small number of walnuts throughout your day. In fact, research has revealed that eating just four walnuts a day for three weeks significantly increases blood levels not only of alpha-linolenic acid, the essential omega-3 fatty acid, but also of its longer chain derivative, eicosapentaenoic acid.

Additionally, several studies have demonstrated that walnuts are a heart-healthy food. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a qualified health claim describing the heart-protective effects of walnuts. Walnuts are a fantastic way to add nutrients, taste, and crunch to your diet. You can eat them by themselves or throw a handful into your cereal, salad, or stir-fry. You’ll be happy to eat them when you try my delicious recipes for Spiced Walnuts and Oven-Crunchy Walnut Chicken Tenders.

10. Dark Chocolate: Chocolate may be described as “sinfully delicious,” but in fact it is a heavenly food with many virtues. I’ve included dark chocolate on my list of Top 10 Beauty Foods because it is a treat for your skin as well as your taste buds. Scientific articles published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and other journals reveal that dark chocolate contains as many polyphenols as red wine and has potent antioxidant, antiaging properties. Dark chocolate contains many natural chemicals, including the beneficial flavonoids epicatechin and gallic acid, which are plant compounds that possess antioxidant properties. If you’ve been reading this book from the beginning, you know that antioxidants rid the body of free radicals, prevent the cell damage caused by free radicals, and help protect your appearance from the signs of aging.

Talk about beauty benefits from this delicious treat: a study that involved drinking cocoa (imagine!) showed an increase in blood flow to skin tissue, with improved skin hydration and reduced roughness and scaling among the female study participants. Dark chocolate also appears to protect skin against the damage caused by sun exposure, keeping the skin moist, smooth, and less scaly.

Topical chocolate skin products are currently available, and chocolate-based treatments have become increasingly popular at spas throughout the country. Godiva, Neuhaus, Ghirardelli—these decadent dark chocolate treats should be savored on any day, not just on special occasions! While chocolate lovers would argue that any chocolate is delicious, not all chocolates are created equal, and the health effects of chocolate depend on how it is processed. “Dutch processed” cocoa has far fewer health benefits than raw cocoa powder, and the health benefits of eating chocolate are negated in milk chocolate. The proteins in milk bind to the antioxidants and make them less bioavailable. Anotherreason to avoid commercial milk chocolate: according to the FDA, it may contain as little as 10 percent actual chocolate. The rest can be made up of cocoa butter, milk, sweeteners, natural or artificial flavors, and emulsifiers. When it comes to the health benefits of your favorite kind of chocolate, the most important factor is whether the natural flavanols have been retained in the final product.

Typically, the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you, since dark chocolate has the most antioxidants. The percentage of cacao in a product—often given on the label—gives you an idea of the richness of the chocolate taste, but it does not always reflect the flavanol content. Seeing “60% cacao” or “70% cacao” on the label does not guarantee that the product has higher levels of flavanols. This is because manufacturers sometimes remove the flavanols because of their bitter taste.

An article in the British medical journal Lancet notes that cocoa solids can be darkened even as the natural flavanols are removed, producing a dark chocolate with fat, sugar, and calories but no health benefits. Some manufacturers have gone to extra efforts to retain more flavanols in their chocolate as a selling point. The Mars Company makes two products high in flavanols, Dove dark chocolate and CocoaVia, as well as Cocoapro cocoa powder.

The more processes the chocolate is put through (such as fermentation, alkalizing, roasting), the more flavanols are lost. You probably don’t need extra encouragement to eat chocolate, but if you’re looking for a special treat, try my recipe for Dark Chocolate–Dipped Frozen Bananas.

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